Starring: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Houston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson Director: Wes Anderson Category: IIA Under the guidance of director Wes Anderson and his scriptwriting cohort cum actor Owen Wilson, the Tenenbaums are a dysfunctional delight. And, after painting weird and wonderful portraits of life in their native America in their first two collaborations - Bottle Rocket (1996) and Rushmore (1998) - the pair have hit paydirt with this, easily their most complete and mature work to date. The humour is again wonderfully low-key and the stellar cast welcomes every nuance with such inspired, dead-pan performances that at times you will wonder if the whole thing is not some fabulous 'mocku-mentary' and that this family doesn't really dwell somewhere in deep lower Manhattan. This family of burnt-out overachievers is led by Royal (Gene Hackman, right), a successful attorney gone wrong. Royal's children are all geniuses who have lost their way. Richie (Luke Wilson) was a junior tennis champion who lost the plot during a US Nationals final. Chas (Ben Stiller) made his mark as a child real estate investor before retreating from the world after a tragic plane crash while the adopted Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a nationally respected playwright soon after leaving primary school but, after a series of disastrous relationships, now doesn't write a word. The caddish Royal ups and leaves his wife Etheline (Anjelica Houston) at some stage during the kids' development but, when he falls on hard times, he returns, claiming he is dying and wants to reunite with his kin before he shuffles off. It's all rubbish, of course, yet you cannot help but cheer on the dastardly Royal, such is the power of the seductive gleam in Hackman's eye. Initially rejected, he sets out to win his way back into the family's hearts. Each character's quirky tale is told through a series of flashbacks supplemented by a flat voice-over from Alec Baldwin that helps lure you into the film's dreamy state. Whereas in his previous two films Anderson occasionally fell into caricature, here he gives the whole story such a human touch it's all somehow believable. Luke Wilson again shows what an underused talent he is; Owen Wilson is his usual but lovably madcap self as Eli Cash, a drug-addled author and a former neighbour; Paltrow is a revelation as the dark-eyed, misery-bound Margot; and Danny Glover and Bill Murray both shine as the family's fringe dwellers. In an age when comedies too often fall way wide of the mark, The Royal Tenenbaums is that rarest of creatures: an intelligent and hilarious piece of cinema that leaves you wondering where the creative team behind it will take us next. The Royal Tenenbaums opens on April 25.